Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to allow a vote on imposing additional sanctions on Iran for its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
In a letter sent to Reid yesterday, Rubio and 41 other Republican senators highlighted the overwhelming bipartisan support for legislation that aims to prevent Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons, while calling on Reid to schedule a vote for the measure immediately.
During a Senate floor speech this morning, Rubio continued to express his concern about the administration’s deal with Iran and the delay in Senate consideration of additional sanctions, condemning Reid’s unprecedented actions to block a vote with such significant, long-term implications for our nation’s security.
“That’s why we want a vote on these sanctions. We don’t have room for error here. We do not have the space to be wrong on this. We can’t afford to be wrong on this,” Rubio said. “Now, there’s no guarantee that sanctions will prevent Iran from going nuclear, but I can tell you, it will make it extremely painful, it will influence their cost-benefit analysis.
“It is ideal to reach a negotiated solution with Iran, but we have to be wise. We have to learn the lessons of history, and we have to understand human nature,” Rubio added. “This administration in Iran, this regime, they want a nuclear weapon because it gives them supremacy in the region and it makes them, they believe, immune to outside pressure and interference in their internal affairs. They are headed for a weapon. They are using these negotiations to buy time.
“There are 59 members of this Senate that have signed onto a sanctions bill, and one person – one senator – is preventing a vote on it. And that is wrong,” Rubio concluded. “So I hope that we can have a vote on the Senate floor on this issue. Let’s have a debate on it. Let’s have a frank and open discussion about it. But why are we preventing that from happening? Why is the Majority Leader preventing that from happening? It is inexcusable, it is unacceptable.”
The speech can be watched here, and the full transcript is below:
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
Rubio Calls For Senate Vote On Iran Sanctions
U.S. Senate Floor
February 6, 2014
“I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls and e-mails this week about this issue of Iran. Just last night, my colleagues, almost all of my colleagues on the Republican side, and I sent a letter led by Senator Kirk, among others, to the Majority Leader asking him to have a vote on additional sanctions on Iran. These sanctions, of course, would be conditioned on failure of the additional negotiations that the administration has announced that will begin next week. I wanted to take a moment to explain to people back home who are writing, rightfully so, and calling us about this issue, about exactly what’s at stake here. So let me break it down to the most basic elements of what’s happening.
“Iran is a country that, as we all know, beginning in 1979, was overtaken by a radical Islamic revolution, took control of the country, has been a sworn enemy of the United States ever since. In fact, until very recently and perhaps they still do, after Friday prayers, they used to end them with a chant, ‘Death to America.’ Now, one thing is to say those things, another thing is to actually do something about it. And, in fact, Iran has. They have been one of the world’s most active sponsors of terrorism all over this planet, but particularly in the Middle East. We know, for example, that they are actively engaged in undermining our interests all over the world. They have been linked to terrorist attacks against dignitaries from other countries, in other countries, abroad. In fact, not so long ago, about two years ago, the report emerged that there was the potential, they were trying to plot the assassination of a foreign ambassador here in Washington, D.C.
“In addition, they participate in things like cyber-attacks against the country, they’ve destabilized their neighbors, and they continue to develop their weapons capability. In addition to all of that that I’ve just outlined, over the last few years, Iran has begun to pursue a nuclear problem. Now, in order to have a nuclear weapon, you have to be able to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium. That takes infrastructure. And while people know how to do that, per say, it takes a lot of investment of time, energy and expertise to actually build the facilities to enrich.
“Now, you can enrich for peaceful purposes if you want to have nuclear reactors to power your cities. That requires enrichment up to a certain level. But Iran has gone well beyond that. That’s important for two reasons. The first is because there are plenty of countries in the world who have nuclear energy, but don’t enrich and don’t reprocess. They import that material to use in their reactors. In fact, that’s what most countries that have nuclear reactors do. But the second is that Iran’s program has always had strong elements of secrecy. They’ve had all these secret facilities that they hide from the world. And the world is rightfully concerned. And so the United Nations Security Council, for example — which is usually, lately, a pretty useless body — but the United Nations Security Council actually came up a resolution demanding that Iran stop the enrichment process. But they kept going. And, in fact, until very recently, not so long ago, they discovered more secret facilities where Iran was enriching uranium and reprocessing plutonium.
“So, the administration has made it a high priority, as has their predecessor, to stop that from happening. And they’ve made clear statements that, ‘We’re not seeking to contain a nuclear Iran, we want to prevent it.’ That’s the right approach. Here’s the problem: We recently entered in these negotiations with Iran to get them to stop doing these things, to back away from it. If you want nuclear power, if you want nuclear energy, you can have it without the need to reprocess, like most countries do, like many of our allies do.
“And the only reason why they even came to the table for those negotiations is because the United States, to be frank, despite the resistance of this administration — which each and every time sanctions and sanctions bills have come before the Congress, have threatened to veto it and have blocked it and been against them — despite all of that, these sanctions are in place, they’ve been applied at a global level, they’ve created a tremendous amount of pressure on the Iranian economy, and as a result, they’ve come to the table to negotiate. Not because the new president of Iran is a reformer, as some like to call him, but because they have so much internal pressure and their economy is under so much duress, that they are afraid of what their people may do about it in the long term. The administration is pretty optimistic, I should say, about these negotiations that were reached, an interim agreement or a temporary agreement, as they call it, a ‘joint plan of action’ is the right terminology. We had Secretary Sherman here, who was in charge of those talks, the other day before the Foreign Relations Committee. And her point is, ‘We accomplished something. We got Iran to stop processing at a certain level and suspend it.’ That’s her point. ’And now we’re going to go into the second phase of negotiating a longer-term solution and we have to give diplomacy a chance.’
“The problem is, something’s lost in translation and perhaps before the Internet, we didn’t catch these things but now we can see these things happening in real-time. For some reason, Iran does not have the same interpretation that the United States does of this ‘joint plan of action.’ For example, the head of Iran’s atomic energy organization on November 24, he said as follows, quote, ‘Work on the Irak, I-R-A-K, reactor is going to continue. Research and development will continue. All our exploration and extraction activities will continue. There are no activities that won’t continue.’ The Foreign Minister, on November 27 said, ‘Iran will pursue construction at the heavy water reactor,’ the same one I was just talking about, Irak. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator said this, and this is really concerning, ‘We can return again to the 20% enrichment in less than one day and we can convert the nuclear material again. Therefore,’ he’s talking about the joint plan of action, ‘the structure of our nuclear program is preserved. We will in no way, never, dismantle our centrifuges.’
“These are concerning statements. Their Foreign Minister said something else on CNN on January 22. Here’s what he said, ‘We did not agree to dismantle anything. The White House version both underplays the concessions and overplays Iran’s commitments. We are not dismantling any centrifuges, we’re not dismantling any equipment, we’re simply not producing, not enriching over 5%.’ Here’s the problem with this. The problem with this is that maybe they’re not enriching right now. Quite frankly, it would be tough to tell because they’ve always had secret capabilities that we keep finding out about long after they’ve started. But more complicated is they’re keeping all the process, the equipment in place. If they wanted to, as they accurately said, they can return to enriching at whatever level they want in less than one day.
“Now, you may ask yourself, ‘Why has Iran agreed to do these sorts of things?’ Here’s what I said at the beginning and I know, now, to be true more than ever. Here is Iran’s strategy. It is the same one employed by North Korea a few years ago. ‘Let’s get into a negotiation. Let’s see how many of these sanction we can get lifted off of our shoulders, but let’s not agree to anything that’s irreversible.’ And here’s what they’re gambling on. They’re gambling that the world’s attention will turn to something else, that the sanctions will erode and people will lose the discipline or the willingness to continue, that countries that are export-driven want to sell things to Iran or get, you know, gasoline from them and petroleum products from them and, therefore, will agree to not continue with the sanctions. And then eventually one day in two, three, four years or whenever, they can decide to restart this stuff. And suddenly announce, ‘You know what? We want to be a nuclear weapons power after all.’
“You know why I know — I don’t think, I don’t suspect, I know — that Iran wants a nuclear weapon? There are two reasons. The first is because they believe this is the ultimate insurance policy. If they have a nuclear weapon, people can’t interfere with their internal politics because they’re a nuclear power. And the other reason why I know is because they’re developing ballistic missiles. Ballistic missiles are rockets that travel at long distances and they cost a lot of money to develop and a lot of time. And the only reason why you develop that capability is to deliver a nuclear payload, to be able to deliver a nuclear weapon against somebody else, far away. Now, the administration’s argument is, ‘Well, this is all for domestic consumption. This is all political posturing.’ That’s what the administration is saying.
“In fact, by the way, yesterday, that was in reaction to Iran’s top diplomat who once again yesterday dismissed the Obama administration’s demands on its nuclear program. He said they have no value. ‘The best part of this joint plan of action,’ he said, ‘is that it is so clear that research and development has no constraint.’ What he’s saying is, ‘We can continue research and development and increasing our capabilities, that all stays in place.’ What he’s really saying is, ‘Once the world is distracted and America moves to another topic or another crisis happens somewhere else in the world, then we’ll do what we want to do.’ That’s what’s happening here. And this is extremely dangerous for the future. Because having a nuclear Iran is bad enough, but it isn’t going to stop there. If Iran develops a nuclear capability and a nuclear weapon, every other country around them is going to want one as well. Saudi Arabia’s going to want one, potentially Turkey’s going to want one. Eventually, one day, Egypt could want one. Can you imagine four or five nuclear weapons powers in the most unstable, dangerous region in the world? That’s where we’re headed.
“Here’s another point: What about those countries that don’t enrich right now. South Korea is an example. And we asked them not to enrich. We tell them, ‘You don’t need to enrich, we provide this stuff.’ How are we going to argue to them, ‘Don’t enrich now?’ How are you going to tell Jordan and Saudi Arabia and other countries, ‘You shouldn’t enrich, but we have agreed to allow Iran to keep enriching.’ So we’re going to tell our friends and our allies, ‘You can’t have this capability, you shouldn’t have this capability. But we’re going to tell an enemy of this country and of world peace that they can?’ And that’s why we want a vote on these sanctions. We don’t have room for error here. We do not have the space to be wrong on this. We can’t afford to be wrong on this.
“Now, there’s no guarantee that sanctions will prevent Iran from going nuclear, but I can tell you, it will make it extremely painful, it will influence their cost-benefit analysis. And failure to put these sanctions in place are already having an impact. Every day we see news reports of businessmen in Europe and around the world flooding to Iran on the idea that the sanctions might be eroding. How are you going to pull that back? You won’t be able to. I don’t completely dismiss the notions that the administration is saying. It is ideal to reach a negotiated solution with Iran, but we have to be wise. We have to learn the lessons of history, and we have to understand human nature. This administration in Iran, this regime, they want a nuclear weapon because it gives them supremacy in the region and it makes them, they believe, immune to outside pressure and interference in their internal affairs. They are headed for a weapon. They are using these negotiations to buy time.
“Now there are 59 members of this Senate that have signed onto a sanctions bill, and one person – one senator – is preventing a vote on it. And that is wrong. In a matter of this importance, we should have a vote on this. And the use of procedural motions and the power of the Majority Leader to prevent a vote on something of this importance has long-term implications on our national security of extraordinary proportions.
“And let me just close by making one more point with regards to this. I recently read statements that those of us who want more sanctions are banging the war drum. That is false. On the contrary, we believe that a failure to put in place sanctions increases the likelihood of an armed conflict with Iran. Are we prepared to allow Iran to become a nuclear power, a nuclear weapons power? We’re going into these negotiations with one arm tied behind our back. They’re going in saying, ‘Under no circumstances will we ever agree not to enrich.’ And we’re saying, ‘We’re open to that.’
“I promise you – and that’s why I’m saying this on the floor so that it’s recorded and so people know where I stood on this before it happens – I promise you, if Iran is allowed to maintain any sort of enrichment capability in our lifetime, in fact I believe before the end of this decade, God forbid, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And one day we will wake up to the news that they have tested a device, or have proven the capability of having one. And when that day comes, God help us all.
“So I hope that we can have a vote on the Senate floor on this issue. Let’s have a debate on it. Let’s have a frank and open discussion about it. But why are we preventing that from happening? Why is the Majority Leader preventing that from happening? It is inexcusable, it is unacceptable. And so I hope we’ll have a vote on it, sooner rather than later.”